Don’t you just love a good infographic?
This one shows the mounting research that suggests the bacteria living in our gut can play a significant role in our overall health.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go beyond the infographic though?
That's exactly what happened to me when I donned my special research specs and did a "Sherlock Holmes" into some of the research currently out there in cyberspace.
I've looked into each area of the brain and body on the graphic to see how gut bacteria may exert an influence over almost every aspect of our health.
Did you know that it’s estimated that our bodies are composed of ten times more bacteria than human cells, with the gut being home to the largest number of bacteria in the body?
It seems that each day there’s a new study emerging showing just how crucial a role the bacteria living in our digestive tract has on influencing our overall health and wellbeing.
Several not only physical, but also psychological, conditions have been linked to an imbalance in our gut flora, with many of our diets comprising of processed, high-sugar and nutrient-poor foods, it’s not hard to see why.
Anxiety & Depression
In 2014, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health spent over $1 million on new research aimed at better understanding the gut bacteria-brain link. Recently, evidence has mounted from studies in mice that the gut micro biome can influence neural development, brain chemistry and a wide range of behaviors, including emotional behavior, pain perception and how the stress system responds.
Mice found to be lacking a certain bacteria in their gut were actually found to be more anxious and less animated, exhibiting depressive-like symptoms.
Diet also plays an important part. Some foods make us feel calmer while other foods can act as stimulants. Tryptophan can have a positive effect on stress and depression because this amino acid helps your brain produce feel-good chemicals (such as the neurotransmitter Serotonin), making you feel calmer and improving mood levels.
Tryptophan-rich foods may also improve sleep, thereby promoting overall mental wellbeing. Some tryptophan-rich foods include: turkey, chicken, bananas, milk, oats, cheese, soy, nuts, peanut butter, and sesame seeds. Click here to get the recipe for my tryptophan-rich Garlic & Rosemary Chicken
Many neurologists now believe that Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut.
Specifically, untreated Helicobacter Pylori (a type of bacteria that, if left untreated, can live in the gut and cause a range of complications such as ulcers in the stomach lining) has been linked to later development of Parkinson’s disease, although conclusive evidence is lacking.
Helicobacter Pylori may also affect the absorption of Parkinson’s disease medications, and consequently affect the overall response to treatment.
There are also many gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation that occur as prominent features of Parkinson’s disease. Including foods high in dietary fibre, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important in the overall treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
As medications for Parkinson’s often cause nausea, it may also be wise to incorporate foods known to reduce symptoms of nausea, such as ginger, tonic water and high protein snacks before bedtime. Try my high protein, Baked Salmon with Garlic and Ginger recipe. It’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is great for brain health too.
New evidence exists suggesting that gut bacteria alter the way we store fat, and how we respond to hormones that make us feel full or hungry. It appears that the wrong mix of microbes may set the stage for obesity and diabetes from birth.
Researchers are now investigating ways in which they may create baby formulas and/or supplements that will promote virtuous microbes while suppressing the harmful types.
When promoting healthy gut bacteria, it’s important to eat a clean diet that includes minimal amounts of processed foods, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods such as kim chi, tamari, tempeh, yoghurt and sauerkraut.
Drinking plenty of water and remaining hydrated is also important; as this helps the body flush out any toxins. Green Juices are an excellent way to detox while hydrating the body, and ensuring you are still getting plenty of nutrients.